Category Archives: Marriage

Six Things NOT to Say to Someone Who is Divorced

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By Amal Killawi and Zarinah Nadir

Divorce is never easy.

But it’s the reality for 50% of American couples and 31% of American Muslim couples.  With these statistics, you’re likely to have friends or know people in your community who have been divorced or are currently experiencing a divorce.

Divorce is often a time of monumental hardship and change. Many people do not know how to convey their sentiments when learning about a divorce.  Comments are usually well-intentioned, but can be grossly misplaced. In honor of our brothers and sisters who have experienced marriage dissolution or are currently in the process, we present a list of the top 6 things not to say to divorcees.  These statements are based on real-life experiences shared with us.

1. “Are you sure?”

Unless this question is posed by close family and friends or persons involved in the mediation process, it is highly inappropriate, offensive, and intrusive.  If people were unsure of their decision, they would not have shared the news with others.  Additionally, for some people, divorce may not have been their choice or decision to make.  People are likely to be under a great deal of emotional stress, and asking them about the uncertainty of their decision is disrespectful of their journey before separation.

2. “How long were you married?”  And upon finding out it was a relatively short period – “Oh, well, at least it was short.”

Marriage duration is not an accurate indicator of the value of the relationship, the length of the healing process, or the legitimacy of the marital experience. Whether the marriage lasted for 5 months or 5 years, it is important to acknowledge the significance of this loss.  The end of a marriage often also symbolizes the end of the dreams, aspirations, and life plans of the couple. Additionally, it is important to realize that regardless of the duration, some people may have suffered through distressing trials in their marriage.  The last few months could have been a living nightmare.

3. “I saw it coming all along.”

Since when has “I told you so” ever been a sensitive comment?  Unfortunately, some people use these opportunities to reveal their intuitiveness about a person’s marital problems.  Although they may consider it to be a statement of reassurance – that one should not be upset because the relationship seemed destined for divorce anyways – it is just plain rude and insensitive.

4. “Who filed for divorce? Did you go to court?  What did you get? Who has custody?”

For Muslims in the United States, divorce is often both a civil and religious process.  These processes can be lengthy and draining emotionally and financially.  Practice caution when asking questions about the divorce process.  Take the lead from the divorcee before entering into a conversation. If the person doesn’t share, don’t probe.  These are personal questions and may still be contentious.

5. “But you were such a perfect couple!”

Or any variation of this such as, “But he is such a nice brother!” or “She’s such a religious sister masha’Allah!”  There’s no such thing as a perfect couple or a perfect person.  It is important to remember that people’s public personas can be very different behind closed doors.  No matter how well we think we know others, there is nothing comparable to living with another person in a marital relationship.  Statements that pass judgment should be avoided because the reality is we do not know.

6. “May you get remarried soon!”

Not everyone who has experienced a divorce appreciates a du`a’ (prayer) for a speedy remarriage.  While prayers are important for a person going through hardship, keep in mind that certain prayers expressed during this time may not always be appropriate.  Some people do not wish to re-marry for some time.  Additionally, some divorces are as a result of traumatic experiences such as domestic abuse or infidelity, and divorcees may very well be fearful of re-experiencing this trauma in a future marriage.  It’s better to focus your du`a’ on helping them to adjust and move on, instead of praying for another marriage!

So then, what is appropriate etiquette?

  • Follow their lead.  Recognize that some people may want to talk, while others do not. Respect their preference.
  • Express empathy. Say, “I’m sorry about your divorce. How are you doing?”
  • Offer support and encouragement. Simply saying, “Please know that I’m here if you need anything” can go a long way.
  • Stay silent. If you don’t know what to say, silence is golden and acceptable.
  • Be sensitive to their needs. Make them feel included despite their change in marital status.
  • Honor their journey. Grief is generally a part of the healing process as people learn to adjust to life after separation.

Remember, you may encounter someone at any stage in that process. By practicing sincerity and utilizing common courtesy, we can be more mindful in our interactions with people undergoing a time of reflection and change.

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50 Things You Need to Know About Marital Relationships

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Excerpted from Al Maghrib Institute’s “Fiqh of Love” seminar with Shaykh Waleed Basyouni

Great relationships don’t just happen; they are created. You have to work at it.
If your job takes all of your best energy, your marriage will suffer.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your spouse is your own happiness.
It is possible to love and hate someone at the same time.
When you complain about your spouse to your friends, remember that their feedback can be distorted.
The only rules in your marriage are those you both choose to agree with.
It is not conflict that destroys marriage; it is the cold, smoldering resentment that you hold for a long time.
It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with what you have.
If you think you are too good for your spouse, think again.
Growing up in a happy household doesn’t ensure a happy marriage, or vice versa.
It’s never too late to repair damaged trust.
The real issue is usually not the one you are arguing about.
Love isn’t just a feeling; it is expressed through our actions.
Expectations set us up for disappointment and resentment.
Arguments cannot be avoided, but destructive arguments can be avoided.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your spouse is focused attention.
Even people with happy marriages sometimes worry that they married the wrong person.
Your spouse cannot rescue you from unhappiness, but they can help you rescue yourself.
The cost of a lie is far greater than any advantage you gain from speaking it.
Your opinion is not necessarily the truth.
Trust takes years to establish and moments to destroy.
Guilt-tripping won’t get you what you really want.
Don’t neglect your friends.
If you think, “You are not the person I married,” you are probably right.
Resisting the temptation to prove your point will win you a lot of points.
Generosity of spirit is the foundation of a good marriage.
If your spouse is being defensive, you might be giving them reasons to be like that.
Marriage isn’t 50/50; it’s 100/100.
You can pay now or pay later, but the later you pay, the more interest and penalties you acquire.
Marriage requires sacrifice, but your benefits outweigh your costs.
Forgiveness isn’t a one-time event; it’s a continuous process.
Accepting the challenges of marriage will shape you into a better person.
Creating a marriage is like launching a rocket: once it clears the pull of gravity, it takes much less energy to sustain the flight.
A successful marriage has more to do with how you deal with your current reality than with what you’ve experienced in the past.
Don’t keep feelings of gratitude to yourself.
There is no greater eloquence than the silence of real listening.
One of the greatest questions to ask your spouse is “How best can I love you?”
Marriage can stay fresh over time.
Assumptions are fine as long as you check them before acting upon them.
Intention may not be the only thing, but it is the most important thing.
Good sex won’t make your marriage, but it’ll help.
Privacy won’t hurt your marriage, but secrecy will.
Possessiveness and jealousy are born out of fear, not love.
Authenticity is contagious and habit-forming.
If your spouse thinks something is important, then it is.
Marriage never outgrows the need for romance.
The sparkle of a new relationship is always temporary.
There is violence in silence when it’s used as a weapon.
It’s better to focus on what you can do to make things right, then what your partner did to make things wrong.
If you think marriage counseling is too expensive, try divorce.